SPLENDOR, THE NATURAL VARIETY
I’m enamored of splendor.
Especially the natural variety.
Like this lake smooth as glass
but for the ripple of a loon passing.
And mountains, though I’ve no wish to climb them,
make a perfect backdrop.
As do the deer nibbling at the forest edge.
My current mood is rare
but on the lookout for a permanent arrangement.
This body is already at home here.
It’s time for my mind to follow,
to separate what matters
from the mob scene that is my feelings.
There’s no one here to influence me one way or the other.
And my memory has better things to do
than be remembered.
So it’s all up to my surroundings
to get the job done.
I have this cabin only for a week,
not a long time for a budding Thoreau.
When I step outdoors, I am braced
by the scenery, the greenery.
My ambition, if that’s the right word
in such an ambition-less place,
is to step outdoors
and feel as if I’ve really stepped indoors.
The border between myself and nature
is less and less rigid.
I feel as if I could dig deep roots
Or live in a den.
Or survive on the feasts of the forest.
Sure, it’s back to civilization on the weekend.
But some of me, I’m certain,
will volunteer to stay behind.
THE ANCIENT BEACHCOMBER
How glad are my bones
to be so bent, pushing my knees
toward my chin quicker than
I can live? Believer, thinker, give
way to water on rocks, wearing
flesh down to flakes,
shine to its shadow. And
ribs. They used to hold back the
heart when it thumped for
glory. Now they’re rusted as
mattress springs. And as
for the organs… the ocean
sends breakers to retrieve them.
Such a drunken, foamy, call
to paradise. But I don’t resist,
let the water rub me clean of me.
Well at least the wearisome search
is over. And the precipice, for
all its demons, is light-filled and
warm and sandy and calm.
Like these broken shells, driftwood,
I don’t have to go beyond here.
Sure my hand trembles
but so does my horizon.
A GREAT-UNCLE AND THREE COMPANIONS
Those four young soldiers still have reason to smile,
seventy years later, from some place in Egypt,
though none of them survived the campaign.
They don’t seem to mind that we see them as happy.
and not fearful for what is to come.
Their last gesture is to stare into the camera
and spread their mouths wide, as if they’re
hanging out on a beach somewhere,
though their uniforms give lie to that.
Look at the arms, the legs,
how relaxed they look, how unaware of death,
and I must respect this snapshot
as if it is their final wish, their last will and testament.
They’re in some kind of temporary barracks.
In the background is a line where socks dry.
And a truck. And what appears to be a cannon.
Three of them have cigarettes hung from their lips.
But try telling those faces that smoking’s no good for them.
Anything is good for them while they can still grin.
I found the photograph in a pile of old letters.
It’s beginning to fade, a preferable fate no doubt
than to die so young at the hands of Rommel, the Desert Fox.
Curiously, as details give way, their skin shines.
They become almost star-like in these dark heavens of the past,
grow old in a way different from what I do.
For I have the heart that beats
and they, the image that endures.
I know their fate.
but how well they look
for not having that information.
HOW WE LIVE NOW
In sunset glow,
we sit sipping wine
on the porch,
the cheap stuff of course,
but at least our taste buds
It’s just us,
a comfortable spot,
and a light show
courtesy of dusk.
We prefer not to feel happy,
would rather this current elated state
assume the role of the norm.
The idea is to not get bored
by what could pass as boredom.
Your trick is to set your glass down and smile.
Mine is to realize it’s not a trick.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in
That, Muse, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming
in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Hawaii Review and the Dunes